Kuhnhackl, Penalty Killers Doing ‘Hard Things’ for Pens

Josh Rowntree
April 20, 2018 - 11:16 am
Tom Kuhnhackl

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - With a 4-0 lead in the second period of Wednesday’s 5-0 Game 4 win over Philadelphia, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin picked up a double minor penalty for high sticking.

But, even with a cushion like that, Pittsburgh’s penalty kill did not let off the gas. The four-minute kill was highlighted by winger Tom Kuhnhackl, who twice dove at the puck, eventually swiping it out of his defensive zone for a clear.

“I think those are the little details, Kuhnhackl said. “Especially on the penalty kill, you’ve just got to make sure you get pucks out, whatever it takes. If it takes a couple of dives, you just have to make sure you get it out.”

Following every win, a Penguins player will reward a deserving teammate by handing him a Steelers helmet. Pens goalie Matt Murray, who owned the helmet following his efforts in Game 3, could have given it to Sidney Crosby. The Penguins captain had, after all, just broken the team’s postseason points record. Murray could have awarded it to Phil Kessel, whose first goal of the postseason broke a string of dazzling Philadelphia shifts, killing the Flyers’ momentum.

But, instead, Murray gave it to Kuhnhackl while praising the work of the penalty killers.

“They’re getting clears, blocking shots,” Murray said postgame. “Guys are doing a really good job just battling, doing a lot of little things right.”

Kuhnhackl is just part of the equation, but has certainly made a name for himself with his willingness to sacrifice his body to keep the opponent off the scoreboard.

“I think whoever is out there is doing a tremendous job of sticking to details, pressuring on the entry, not giving them any time,” Kuhnhackl said. “Obviously, our defensemen and our forwards are doing a great job blocking shots and getting pucks all the way down the ice.”

The Penguins penalty kill struggled down the stretch, finishing 17th in the NHL at 80 percent. But, in the postseason, Pittsburgh’s kill has improved by over eight points. Non-penalty kill guys are taking notice of the team’s play when down a man.

“That’s what you need,” winger Phil Kessel said. “Everyone is working for the same goal and everyone has their roles and does their thing. They’re great for our team and, without them, we can’t win.”

“Everyone is doing something on this team,” center Derick Brassard said. “If you’re not playing the power play, you’re playing PK. Those guys are so important. Blocking shots, it’s hard. It takes a big will to do it. Those guys are doing it and it’s why they’ve won the last two years.”

The penalty killers have allowed just two goals in Philadelphia’s 17 chances in the series and none in ten opportunities over the last two games. Both goals came in the Flyers’ Game 2 victory.

“Everyone is talking about (Crosby) and the core of this group,” Brassard added. “But those guys are killing penalties and doing the hard things.”